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Brazil in the World Cup 1938 - France

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Matches and Players

Photo: Brazil Football Federation
Brazil in the 1938 World Cup - France

Brazilian team lined up for the first match, against Poland.

Poster 1938 Cup
1938 Poster

The team (line-up in the first match, against Poland): Batatais; Domingos and Machado; ZezÚ Procˇpio, Martim and Afonsinho; Lopes, Romeu, Le˘nidas (C), Perßcio and HÚrcules.
Reserves: Walter (G), Jahu, Nariz, Brito, BrandŃo, Argemiro, Roberto, Luisinho, Niginho, Tim and Patesko.
Coach: Adhemar Pimenta.

The Matches:
Brazil 6 x 5 Poland
Brazil 1 x 1 Czechoslovakia
Brazil 2 x 1 Czechoslovakia
Brazil 1 x 2 Italy
Brazil 4 x 2 Sweden

The Preparation

Brazil didn't have to play qualifyings. Except for Brazil and Cuba, all other countries withdrew from the competition. Argentina and Uruguay defended that the Cup should happen in a South American country, after the event of 1934 having happened in Italy, Europe.

Brazil preparing for the 1938 Cup
Brazil preparation

For the first time, in 1938 Brazil would take their best team to a World Cup; in 1930 and 1934, internal disputes prevented some players from participating of the tournaments.
Also for the first time, the Brazilian team had a planning to prepare for the World Cup. For group integration, all players spent one month in the city of Caxambu, famous for its medicinal waters, in the State of Minas Gerais; in Caxambu, a method adopted for physical preparation was to carry pieces of log around.

Like in 1934, the team went to Europe by ship. The trip took fifteen days (longer than the thirteen days of 1934), but Brazil arrived in France on May 15th, twenty days before the first match against Poland. The Brazilian team had time to stroll around Strasbourg (photo).

Brazil takes a stroll in Paris
Brazilian team strolls in Strasbourg

The coach was Ademar Pimenta. Despite his qualities (Pimenta had been coach of the team in 1937 America Cup, in which Brazil was vice-champion), Pimenta was considered an outdated coach. He didn't know much about the tactical schemes of the European teams; most had adopted the WM formation, created by Herbert Chapman, from Arsenal, in 1925, and which had already been imported to Brazil, when Flamengo hired the Hungarian coach Dori Kruschner in 1937. As the line-up of the Brazilian team indicates, Pimenta still adopted the scheme 1-2-3-5.
Besides, Pimenta lacked self-confidence. He was submitted to pressure from several Brazilian teams, which wanted their players included in the principal national team. Pimenta could not define his team, before or during the Cup. The long ship trip helped worsen the situation, as neither Pimenta nor the players could escape the pressures and gossips.

The Matches

Brazil played the first match against Poland, in Strasbourg, on June 5th, a rainy Sunday. The world was introduced to the first Brazilian idol in World Cups: Le˘nidas da Silva. He had been to the 1934 World Cup, but Brazil played only one match.

Brazil vs. Poland - 1938
Le˘nidas against Poland

Brazil did 3 x 1 in the first half, goals by Le˘nidas, Romeu and Perßcio. In the second half, Poland managed to do 4 x 4. In the extension time, Le˘nidas scored another two goals, and Brazil won by 6 x 5.

The next day, the Brazilian team boarded the train for a nearly 1,000 km trip across France. The next match would be against Czechoslovakia, in Toulouse.
The result of the first match was 1 x 1, even after 30 minutes of extension time. Le˘nidas, despite the violence of the Czechs, scored the Brazilian goal. According to the rules of that Cup, the teams should play again, only two days after the first match.
Pimenta decided to save all principal players, except two: the goalkeeper Valter and Leonidas. Actually, the reserve team was nearly as good as the principal; the problem was that Pimenta, to attend extra-field pressures, had put some of the best players in the reserve. The Czechs scored first. Brazil, led by Tim, did 2 x 1 in the second half, one goal by Le˘nidas.

The Brazilian team faced another long trip by train, this time heading to Marseille. Brazil would play against Italy, only two days after the second match against the Czechs.

Brazil vs. Italy - 1938
Brazil vs. Italy

Injured, Le˘nidas could not play against the Italians. Confused, the coach Ademar Pimenta mixed up players from both matches against Czechoslovakia; in three matches, Brazil would play with three completely different line-ups.
The first half finished 0 x 0. Gino Colaussi scored the first goal for Italy. Then, a controversial play: Domingos da Guia, the "Divine", recognized until today as one of the most talented Brazilian defenders of all time, says that he was kicked by Italian Piola; when he kicked back, the Swiss referee took it as a foul, and awarded a penalty to Italy. Legendary Giuseppe Meazza kicked and scored the second goal to Italy. Brazil scored its sole goal a few minutes before the end of the game.
After losing to Italy, Brazilian players complained about the long trips, the excess of matches, and the referee's mistakes. However, JoŃo Saldanha, an iminent Brazilian journalist (who would be one of the mentors of the Brazilian team in 1970), in this interview to BBC (in Portuguese), said that the Italians were far superior and deserved the victory.

Brazil played against Sweden and won by 4 x 2, finishing that World Cup in third place. Le˘nidas was back, and scored two goals.

In the final, Italy won Hungary by 4 x 2 and became bi-champion of the World Cup.

World Cup 1938 - Other Info

FIFA Archives of the 1938 World Cup.

Leonidas da Silva
Le˘nidas da Silva

Visit the official page about Leonidas da Silva.
Le˘nidas was one of the best Brazilian players of all time. He was the inventor of that difficult movement called bycicle.
Le˘nidas was the main striker of the 1938 Cup, with seven goals. Because of his talent and the fact that he was one of the first black men to bright in a World Cup, French media called him "Diamant Noir", or "Black Diamond" in English, or "Diamante Negro", as he became known in Brazil.

Diamante Negro
Diamante Negro

Le˘nidas knew how to use his color. There are records that, when he scored the last goal against Poland, Le˘nidas was shoe-less, and this would be grounds for the referee to invalidate the goal. Cleverly, Le˘nidas splashed his feet into the dark mud; the referee could not tell Leonidas' black socks from his black legs and from the (non-existant) black shoes.

Sometime after the return of the team to Brazil, a large group launched a chocolate called "Diamante Negro". Until today, this is one of the most sold candies in Brazil (even though most people do not relate the chocolate to the player).

The quick recovery of Le˘nidas raised rumours. FIFA says that coach Pimenta declared he was "resting Leonidas for the final". According to this report, Mussolini's assistants would have "convinced" Le˘nidas to not play that match.

Domingos da Guia was father of Ademir da Guia, who would be with the Brazilian team in the 1974 World Cup, in Germany. This was the only case of a father and his son playing for the main National football team in Brazil.

The average audience of the 1938 Cup was around 21,000, the lowest in all World Cups.
Shortly after the end of the cup, Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II. The World Cups were suspended for twelve years. The next cup would happen in Brazil, in 1950.